Patrick Semansky / AP
Days after a secret weekend visit to Caracas by top Biden administration officials, two long-detained Americans were released – a surprising development with a country whose leader, Nicolas Maduro, is not even currently recognized as its president by the United States. .
Although not many details are known about the negotiations, the White House has said that energy security was also part of the talks.
It is a sign of a potential thaw in tensions with Venezuela – which happens to be Russia’s best ally in Latin America. And it comes as the White House, which banned imports of Russian oil, is looking for ways to take the edge off record-high gasoline prices.
While it is too early to say what this will mean for future relations, it is an important step as the White House is looking for more ways to isolate Russia from its invasion of Ukraine.
For Russia, “seeing one of its closer and more trusted partners in South America have direct talks with the U.S. government can only be a matter of concern,” said Kevin Whitaker, a former U.S. ambassador to Colombia who also served as a diplomat in Venezuela. , told reporters during a briefing.
The talks led to the release of two Americans from prison
There are currently a number of Americans in Venezuela. Late Tuesday, the White House announced that it had secured the release of two of them:
- Gustavo Cárdenas, one of six executives of the gas company Citgo arrested during a business trip in 2017 and later accused of corruption
- Jorge Alberto Fernández, a Cuban American man arrested on separate charges last year
“These men are fathers who lost precious time with their children and everyone they love, and their families have suffered every day they have been absent,” President Biden said in a statement. “And even as we celebrate the return of Cardenas and Fernandez, we also remember the names and stories of every American who is wrongfully held back against their will – in Venezuela, in Russia, in Afghanistan, Syria, China, Iran and elsewhere on earth. round.”
Jae C. Hong / AP
The United States severed diplomatic relations with Caracas years ago
Venezuela has some of the largest oil reserves in the world and used to export a significant portion to the United States.
But it stopped with sanctions aimed at punishing Maduro for human rights violations and undermining democracy. Caracas has since become closely associated with Moscow, especially when it comes to selling its oil.
Restarting trade would be complicated as the United States does not recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s president. He has also been indicted in the United States for drug trafficking.
There is also politics involved. In some of South Florida’s Latin American communities, what the Biden administration is doing is seen as hypocritical.
The democratic hopes of the Venezuelan people, like the determination and courage of the Ukrainian people, are worth far more than a few barrels of oil. My opinion on the administrator’s reported conversations with VZ, which breathes new life into Maduro’s torture regime: https://t.co/3U4x6nGsLP
– Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (@SFRCdems) March 8, 2022
Eddy Acevedo, who served as national security adviser to the U.S. Agency for International Development under the Trump administration, says it is wrong to negotiate with Maduro.
“It undermines President Biden’s notion here of being strong against dictators,” said Acevedo, who is now at the Wilson Center. “You can not be inconsistent with that and try to punish Putin and reward Maduro at the same time.”
Acevedo said that even if the White House wanted Venezuela to fill the void left by Russia, it would not be able to do so. Despite sitting on large oil reserves, production has fallen sharply during Maduro’s tenure and is a fraction of what Russia produces.
Russia has been working to expand its influence in Latin America
The United States is also concerned Russia’s growing influence in Latin America. Putin already has close ties with Cuba and Nicaragua – although both countries refused to vote against a UN resolution condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. (Venezuela, which has fallen behind with its UN contingents, did not have a vote.)
A few weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, Putin hosted the presidents of Argentina and Brazil in Moscow.
Eric Farnsworth, a former State Department official who is now on the Council of Americas, says Russia’s focus is less on the region and more on creating problems for the United States.
“Ultimately, I want to maintain that Russia does not care so much about the Western Hemisphere at all,” he said. “It is rather a region that Russia believes that if it can then some instability and volatility that will negatively affect US interests.”
Biden will meet with Colombian President Iván Duque in the White House
The White House is withdrawing. On Thursday, Biden will host Colombian President Iván Duque in the White House.
Colombia is the United States’ closest ally in the region. It also has a special relationship with NATO.
Duque has been one of the more outspoken leaders against the invasion of Ukraine and the dangers of Russian influence. It is a message that the United States clearly wants to see spread across the region.
“President Duque has been particularly candid about relations between Russia and certain countries in the region, particularly Venezuela,” Whitaker told reporters, noting that Duque said Moscow’s actions “not only run counter to Colombia’s interests but could pose a threat.” more. wide in the hemisphere by giving Russia a platform from which to trade. “
However, Duque’s energy minister warned against the idea of cooperating with Venezuela on oil. In a interview with the Financial Timessaid Diego Mesa: “If you just banned oil from what they call the Russian dictator, it’s hard to explain why you want to buy oil from the Venezuelan dictator.”
2 Americans were released from Venezuela and there have also been negotiations on oil: NPR
Source link 2 Americans were released from Venezuela and there have also been negotiations on oil: NPR